COMMERCE, GA, USA
SSG, COMPANY A, 2D BATTALION, 502D INFANTRY, FORT CAMPBELL, KY
BALAD, IRAQ 04/24/2008
Staff Sergeant Justin Akers served with Shaun J. Whitehead during his first deployment to Iraq, from 2004 to 2006, when Whitehead was just coming into his own as a leader, he said.
He always put his soldiers first, and that’s the greatest compliment I can pay a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army, Akers said.
Whitehead, 24, of Commerce, Ga., died April 24 in Iskandariyah of wounds sustained from an explosive. He was assigned to Fort Campbell.
His grandfather served in Korea and Vietnam and Shaun signed up knowing he would soon be on his way to Iraq. He thought it was time for him to contribute, said his grandfather, Coy O’Shields.
Shaun taught me how to love. He truly did, said his wife, Janie. He opened up to me a whole other level of love. On visits back to Georgia with his family, Whitehead would run at the first sight of his mother to pick her up and twirl her around, laughing, she said.
May God be kind to me, and may that memory never fade, said his mother, Rebecca.
Staff Sergeant Shaun Whitehead was 19 years old when he joined the military in 2003. During his first tour of duty in Iraq, he signed up for another tour.
“Shaun told me after his first deployment he didn’t want to go back, but he was needed there,” said his mother. “He had to go back because our work was not done there.”
His family was busy preparing for Shaun to come home for a visit at the end of May, when they got word of his deadly encounter with a roadside bomb.
Since his death, hundreds of people have called expressing a desire to attend the services for Sergeant Whitehead, so many that the funeral home handling the arrangements can’t accommodate them all. The family is making plans to move those services to a church large enough to handle the crowd.
When Sergeant Whitehead was home for Christmas in 2005, he created a tribute to his grandfather’s military service. The plaque now hangs on Coy O’Shields living room wall.
Soon after presenting his grandfather with the gift, Whitehead returned to Iraq.
“He told me he’d rather be fighting over there than them fighting over here,” said O’Shields. “That meant a lot to me.”
“He was just prepared to do his part,” said his mother. “Whatever he needed to do.”
Shaun Whitehead is survived by his wife, a son, and a daughter.